Many newspapers picked up on Dmitri Medvedev’s comments regarding the British Council spat from a long interview with Itogi the other day. Now JRL has offered some translated excerpts from the report with Russia’s next president.
Itogi – No 8 – February 2008 SIMPLE TRUTHS Excerpts from an interview with Dmitry Medvedev Author: Andrei Vandenko Question: A few words on the decision to close British Council offices in Russia, please… Dmitry Medvedev: Try as I might, I cannot recall a single episode when the British government permitted Russian non- governmental organization to operate in Great Britain. I dare you try and register a Russian non-governmental organization in London. It will be a real pain. You’ll have to answer all sorts of questions, offer all sorts of explanations, and all that. Compromises are needed. You were permitted to come and work here? Fine. Just behave yourselves. It is common knowledge after all that structures like the British Council (financed as they are by the state) perform all sort of functions, some of them quite clandestine. I mean compilation of sensitive information.
Question: What about neighbors then? One is supposed to be friendly with neighbors, but Moscow’s relations with Tbilisi and Kiev are something altogether different.Dmitry Medvedev: It happens. Where Ukraine is concerned, we will eventually establish a common economic zone with it, I trust. And with Kazakhstan and Belarus as well, of course. Russia is not to be blamed for the problems our Ukrainian colleagues grapple with, these days. When infighting involves absolutely all political forces – and that’s what we’ve been seeing in Ukraine – making any agreements at the international level becomes a chore. The situation with the Russian-Georgian relations is more complicated but even it does not include any unsolvable problems I perceive. Russia is open for a dialogue. I do not doubt that we will reach an understanding with official Tbilisi.Question: Or else we could leave it without gas. Kiev, Tbilisi, and whoever else that deserves it…Dmitry Medvedev: Gazprom faithfully honors its commitments. All these speculations on the alleged energy blackmail we keep hearing from the West are absolutely groundless. Sure, the recovering Russia irritates many circles abroad. Anyway, all of that are but words. Given sufficient ingenuity, one might condemn the United States as a financial aggressor and economic terrorist that forced its monetary unit and free enterprise standards on the rest of the world. When I hear the calls to Russia to be more responsive, I often think that I would have probably taken this advice a decade ago. Not any more. Not because I’m top brass these days. Because I know better now. Had we failed then to be adamant on some matters, we’d have been treated as a Third World country even now. Something like Upper Volta with nuclear missiles, you know. Russia is not that. It has its own, unique, special place in the world.Question: Does Russia owe it to its bombs, oil, and gas?Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, it does. But also to its colossal intellectual potential, its millennia-long history, and its place on the map of Eurasia. In short, I think it’s quite all right for Russia to bar teeth – when the circumstances warrant it. Someone might argue that this muscle-playing necessitates a valid cause, something truly important. Say, like Kosovo or the plans to install elements of the US national missile defense in Europe but not something on the scale of the British Council. I disagree. It is these trifles (and they are not trifles at all, actually) that form the image of the state. When you allow others to push you and keep pushing, these others inevitably stop taking you into account. There are no trifles in international affairs. Russia is a federation with a great potential and some major problems. A state like that requires a strong president – regardless of who exactly sits in the Kremlin at any given moment. Transformation into a parliamentary republic will do Russia in. I’m convinced of it. Consider our neighbors who tried to rearrange configuration of power in their countries. Remember what colossal difficulties they encountered? And they are not even federations. Russia has always needed a stiff executive power vertical. That’s the only means of running it.Question: Why?Dmitry Medvedev: Because Russia is a presidential republic and will remain one.Question: Where will the center of power be? We will have the president in the Kremlin and the national leader in the White House…Dmitry Medvedev: There may be only one center of power, and there will be only one. Russia is ruled by the president.Question: These last eight years, however, everything was arranged to match and fit a single individual whose name we all know.Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, but was it any different before?Question: But the first president retired on December 31, 1999. Vladimir Putin does not intend to leave politics altogether.Dmitry Medvedev: That’s why I keep telling you to set your worries aside. Everything will be done by the Constitution. Vladimir Vladimirovich and I know that our tandem needs atmosphere of complete trust and partnership.